Once you're around 34 weeks pregnant, pack a bag with everything you think you'll need at the hospital, so that you're ready to go as soon as your baby's ready to arrive. Read on for our list of birth essentials to help get you started.
Camera or Video Recorder
You'll want to immortalize every moment of those first few hours with your new baby. Don't forget the chargers, and confirm that your hospital allows video cameras.
Cash and Change
Bring at least $20 in cash and change for snacks, gift-store runs, and any of your miscellaneous cravings or whims.
Cell Phone and Charger
Be sure your partner has a cell phone when you head to the hospital. He can call friends and family to update them on your progress—and announce the big news when your baby arrives.
Extra Bag or Two
With all the goodies from the hospital—diapers, blankets, and creams—and all the gifts from well wishers, you're bound to have a lot more luggage coming out than you did going in.
Bring pictures of your older kids to the hospital to help you stay focused during labor. And seeing their photos by the bed will let your older kids know you love and miss them (which could help head off any jealousy).
Bring flip-flops for the shower or to wear home if your feet are too swollen to fit into regular shoes.
Hair Care Products
Clips and barrettes—and a brush and comb—will help keep your hair out of your face during labor (and ensure that you look fab in those first photos with your new baby).
Homecoming Outfit for Baby
Skip the sleep sack and tight-fitting outfits. Instead, pack a kimono-style shirt, with footed pants so you don't have to bring socks. Bring a receiving blanket and hat (a heavy, warm one in the winter and a thinner cotton one in the summer).
Homecoming Outfit for You
A clean, loose-fitting outfit will best suit your still-round belly and make your trip home as comfortable as possible.
Bring copies of your birth plan (if you have one), a picture ID, health insurance information, and hospital registration forms. Even if you've already registered at the hospital, some hospitals need to confirm your records before they can admit you.
Your newborn may have long nails from the beginning. Stash a pair of rounded fingernail scissors or a mini emery board from the baby's toiletry kit in your bag.
Take a journal for your baby so you can jot down notes and questions for the doctor. You can even ask the nurses to stamp your baby's footprints when they're preparing the birth certificate.
Music, Movies, and Magazines
A personal DVD player, iPod, and a good book can help district you—and your partner—from the pains and waiting of labor.
Bring breast pads to absorb leaks, lanolin cream, nursing tank tops and bras (buy them at the end of your pregnancy—most women are about that same size postpartum), a breast pump (most hospitals provide one but you may want to start out using your own), cooling gel pads, and a nursing pillow.
Personal Contact List
With all the excitement, it can be easy to forget to inform someone really important about your big news. Draw up a list of people your husband should call, text, or email after your baby is born.
A homemade hot pack (a sock filled with rice or beans) can bring you instant relief during active labor because they mold to your body—and they can easily be warmed up in the hospital's microwave. Other items to pack include: back massager, stress-relieving squeeze ball, and massage oil or lotion.
Sleepwear, Robe and Underwear
A cotton nightie will be much more comfortable than a hospital gown. A robe will be handy for when you want to take walks. Several pairs of undies are a must (briefs, maternity, or disposables like Depends) if you don't want to wear the mesh underwear the hospital gives you after delivery.
Slippers and/or Heavy Socks
Keep your toes toasty and clean, whether you're in bed or strolling around on the cold tile floor. Bring a pair that's easily laundered, as they may get a bit dirty.
Snacks and Candy
Keep everyone happy by bringing enough snacks for you and your partner to share. Lollipops are especially great for conquering dry mouth during labor.
The pillows in the hospitals may be uncomfortable, and bringing one you're familiar with may help you to relax. Don't forget one for your partner, too, especially if he's planning on spending the night.
Hospital food isn't the greatest, and some local restaurants will deliver. Your partner can also call ahead to pick up food and bring it back to you.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Bring some for you and your mate, so everyone has bright smiles for your first photos together. Gum or mints can make do in a pinch—and may be allowed to help you deal with dry mouth during labor.
Make sure one of you has a watch with a second hand, so your partner can time your contractions and give you a heads up when the next one's near.
Run a white-noise machine in your room to drown out all the jarring sounds of the hospital, so you and your baby can get some much-needed rest.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.